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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jacqueline Cahalan

Being proactive

Before you go into a store or restaurant.

If your child wants to bring a favorite toy somewhere.

When there will be a time limit for a fun activity.

Many of the situations that lead to conflict or meltdowns with our kids can be anticipated beforehand. By being proactive and addressing them ahead of time, you can manage expectations, reduce uncertainty, and make things more predictable for everyone.

Try this:

  • Have a brief conversation ahead of time about it. Tell your kids what you expect of them and what the potential consequences of their choices or actions may be. Offer them strategies or support to help them stick to the expectations. Ask them for feedback regarding what parts of the situation might be hard and what might be helpful for things to go smoothly.

  • During the event, use these conversations as touchstones to refer back to as needed.

  • Afterwards, have a quick debriefing to reinforce how well everything went or what could be done differently next time.


  • I need you to stay close to me when we are in the store because it isn’t safe for you to be running around. Otherwise, you will need to stay home next time. Would it help you to hold my hand so that you don’t forget?

  • I know you want to bring that toy to grandma’s but what might happen if you do? How will you handle it if someone else wants to play with it? What can you do to keep it safe so that it doesn’t get lost or broken?

  • For an older child: You can hang out with your friends but you need to be home in an hour. Do you have a watch? What else would help so you don’t lose track of time? Being home by the agreed upon time helps me trust that can be responsible enough to handle this extra independence.

When has being proactive helped you avoid a tricky situation?

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